Today’s passage starts with one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. These temple guards were sent to arrest Jesus, and after listening to him for a while, they went back to the religious leaders who had sent them. “Why didn’t you arrest him?” “Well, I dunno. We were listening to him talk, and we kinda forgot.” By the way, these weren’t Roman soldiers, as you might have thought. They were probably Levites who were in charge of preserving order in the temple area. As such, I’m sure they'd heard plenty of preaching and teaching, but this Man’s speech and offer stopped them dead in their tracks.
Once again John recorded a large disparity of opinion concerning Jesus. Notice the one opinion that he never quoted anyone saying: “I’m sure he’s a nice man, but I was a little bored listening to him. He sounds like a good teacher.” People who met Jesus tended to either A) follow him and worship him, or B) plot his murder. If the Jesus we’re presenting to the world is boring it, I'd question whether or not we’re presenting the Jesus of the Bible.
Even among the religious leaders there was some diversity of opinion. Most of them were calling for his blood, but he had at least two friends there that we know about: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea (who provided his burial plot). Unlike Joseph, however, Nicodemus actually spoke up in favor of Jesus, or at least provided a voice of moderation. He didn’t proclaim himself a follower of Jesus, at least not openly, but he did call them back to observance of their own law that they claimed to follow.
Here's where we get to the title for today’s devotional. This country, and virtually all of humanity, has a terrible history in regards to racial prejudice, and I’m very glad that we’re making some progress in that area. But there are more ways to be prejudiced than in terms of race, and these men displayed at least two of them here.
When the temple guards tried to explain why they didn’t arrest Jesus, the Sanhedrin showed their utter contempt for the common people. Their reply dripped with a condescending attitude towards the rank and file, who supposedly were hopelessly ignorant, even stupid. If the religious leaders weren’t accepting him, then obviously he wasn’t worth listening to. This is elitism in one of its ugliest forms.
But then we have regional bigotry as well. As I mentioned before,
Galilee was almost synonymous in many peoples’ minds with godlessness and idolatry, so that’s why they accused Nicodemus of being from there along with Jesus. And actually, they were factually wrong as well. Both Jonah and Nahum came from the Galilee region, remember them? Not only this, but they were discounting God’s sovereignty, forgetting that he can raise up a prophet anywhere he chooses.
I can point fingers at the Pharisees all day long, but the Holy Spirit didn’t record this so I can say “What fools they were!” and walk on. They're presented to us as a warning. Do I think that I’ve got God all figured out? Do I fall into the same trap of elitism? Tough questions, and I might not like the answers.
Father God, I plead with you to remove any pride and any prejudice. I'm saved by grace, and I’m kept by grace. Even more important, please remind me, as often as I need it, that you’re God and I’m not.